Interaction between land use, climate change and the occurrence of pandemics

Sunnuntai 20.11.2022 klo 14.18 - Mikko Nikinmaa

It is now almost universally accepted that the SARS-CoV-2 virus (virus that has caused the Covid-19 pandemic) is originally a bat virus that has spilled over to humans. In a Nature article ( Eby et al. have followed for 25 years, which environmental drivers are associated with the spill over of another bat virus to mammals. The study is most important, as it directly associates two big areas of environmental concern and the likelihood of bat viruses and probably also other zoonoses spilling over to humans, namely land use and climate change.

The problem with increasing land area being used by humans in increasing the likelihood of humans getting zoonoses has been suggested many times earlier. Whenever the probability of human-animal interaction increases, also the possibility of viruses spilling over to man increases. Today areas free of human influence are getting smaller and smaller because of increasing human population.

The effect of increased land use is worsened by climate change. Whenever there is drought or any other reason for food shortage, shedding of viruses to nearby organisms increases. As climate change increases drought periods, the probability of virus spill over increases. Consequently, pandemics and climate change occur together, by combatting climate change we can also prevent pandemics.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: zoonoses, drought, population growth

Why fusion energy production does not solve environmental problems if our habits and attitudes do not change?

Maanantai 14.2.2022 klo 19.20 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Solar energy is, in fact, fusion energy. Thus, if one were able to harness fusion for energy production, all our problems with fossil fuels and consecutive climate change would be just a bad dream. Throughout my life, it has been promised that harnessing nuclear fusion for energy production is 30 years away – hitherto it has been the longest 30 years ever recorded, as 55 years have gone, and the possibility of commercial application of fusion power is still 30 years away. Last week widely spread news item (based on successful experiment) suggests that this time the 30 years away may actually be 30 years away. If, and hopefully as, this is true, the energy production can become carbon neutral and the climate change combatted effectively with almost infinite source of energy.

It is possible that many people have already taken this news to mean that environmental actions are no longer necessary. This is largely because climate change has been the one and only environmental problem in the news. However, the fact is that even if the energy problem and its consequences to the environment become solved, we are still living in a planet with limits, and there is no planet B, where we could continue to spread. The real problem is the concept of growth. That is what we must continue to fight against even if the energy problems get solved.

Infinite growth is possible only if there are no limits. And already in 1970’s it became obvious to scientists that the earth has limits. At present man is using much more resources than there are available. Also, human land use is leaving less and less area to wild animals and plants with the consequence that the biodiversity of earth is diminishing. This leads, e.g., to increased likelihood of animal-to-human spread of diseases such as Covid 19. The pesticide and fertilizer use, which has the aim to increase agricultural production, is now starting to cause the opposite, as the pollinators and the beneficial soil microbes start to suffer. Further, the use of chemicals inevitably causes pollution.

So, even if fusion energy becomes available, we need to limit population growth, resource and land use, and stop pollution. One of the most important things for mankind is to realize that we should all think of ourselves as brothers and sisters regardless of if we live in Finland or Malawi, Russia or Ukraine, China or USA. Another thing to realize is that we should all be equal, the Putins, Musks, Trumps and Xis of the world should realize this.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, economic growth, biodiversity, zoonoses